The world has never been more consumer-oriented or brand-driven than it is today. If I started naming brands, chances are a stream of advertising jingles would instantly come to mind from potato chips to fabric softener and homeowners’ insurance. As we shop, we look for recognizable logos on appliances, pictures on coffee containers and insignias on automobiles.
Brand is the quality we expect when we open a can, scissor into a bubble pack, drink another hot cupful, or press down the accelerator. I believe, if God had a brand for us, it would be love. John 13:35 says that love is how the world knows we are Jesus’ disciples.
Love is an inside job. The Apostle Paul once lived a life branded by legalism. He may have had a good-looking brand on the outside, but like an Oreo without filling, he lacked the good stuff — that vital, defining, internal substance God desires. We know his story. Paul met Jesus on the Damascus road. Paul, a man who zealously carried out righteousness as a system of laws and requirements, later explained that even extreme outward acts of righteousness mean nothing without love (1 Corinthians 13).
Deeper than any tattoo, Paul’s entire being was stamped with Christ’s brand of salvific love. I imagine Paul, the gifted author, tried various approaches to explain this love and, finally, in joyful desperation, scribbled across his parchment that God’s love “surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19). How do you describe a love that turns your worldview inside out?
Paul couldn’t keep it to himself. He prayed we would have the ability to grasp “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” and would be “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:18–19). In Philippians 1:9–11, Paul prayed our love “will overflow more and more” and that we “keep on growing in knowledge and understanding” so we “understand what really matters” and “live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return,” that we will be “filled with the fruit” of our “salvation — the righteous character produced in our life by Jesus Christ” (NLT). Why was love so important to Paul? He understood the importance of consistent quality on the inside.
Precious metal gets stamped with a hallmark indicating its purity. Our love for God deepens. It is proved genuine as we interact with others. As we grow in the refining processes of grace and mercy, our responses show God is making us holy. More and more, we show “love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:4–7).
The way those outside the church know God’s love is how we act when we get challenged in ways unlike before. Paul indicates love takes us where character is tried, and we choose “the most excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31). In these places of decision, God’s brand deepens.
For me, one of those places is interacting with people from unorthodox religions — some of whom I have formerly viewed as “enemies.” I have felt inadequate. I now understand why Jesus said to pray for our “enemies” (Matthew 5:44). Prayer personally invests our hearts. It’s how God helps us shed our prejudices to see our “enemies” are people Christ longs to love through us.
If, as Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy to a friend” (fmchr.ch/mkingjr), then prayer is a force that enables it. Prayer invites Jesus’ into our need for heart change. As we pray, Jesus’ brand moves deeper and deeper into our lives, hallmarking us indelibly. As we like Paul, “press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of” us (Philippians 3:12), we have faith that God is able to do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). And more and more, when the watching world opens up our lives to see what’s inside, they will see the brand of Christ’s love, the trademark of God’s workmanship in us (Ephesians 2:10).
Tammy Bovee is a Spring Arbor University graduate, a songwriter and a freelance author for newspapers and magazines. She’s currently working on a book sharing priceless lessons God has taught her and her husband, Greenville College graduate Jeff Bovee, through their marriage.
1. What role does the cross of Christ serve in branding our lives with love (Luke 9:23)?
2. How do we communicate Christ’s brand to those around us?
3. Who are our “enemies” and how can we commit to pray for them and follow where Jesus leads?